White House Signals Farm Bill Veto – Will Congress Bend?
Word has it that the farm bill congressional conferees hammered out at the end of last week would most likely be vetoed by President Bush. The ink has not dried on the agreement, and that is why Congress had to pass an extension of the existing farm bill last week. The extension gives lawmakers until May 2, when they must either pass another stopgap measure or resort to the permanent 1949 agriculture law, if a new bill is not completed.
According to Ryan Grimm at Politico.com, when asked what the President would do if the current iteration of the farm bill made its way to the President’s desk White House spokesman Scott Stanzel replied, “as it stands now, it is not something the president would support.” Stanzel wrote in an email:
“The proposal before Congress would dramatically increase spending, in part by masking additional spending in budgetary gimmicks and accounting tricks.”
Farm bills pass – that’s what they do
Despite the threat, there may be enough Congressional support to override the veto. According to House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (D-MN), “If the White House is stupid enough to veto this, they’re going to get overridden.”
The farm bill is a very popular funding mechanism for Congressional spending. Every state’s congressional delegation works extremely hard to get their slice of the agricultural pie – not doing so does not bode well in the eyes of powerful ag interests and the voters of agricultural states. In short, farm bills do not get vetoed. At least very rarely do they get vetoed – there are a few exceptions.
One exception to the rule is when a second term president uses a veto (or threatens to veto) an appropriations bill, such as a farm bill – and criticize Congress for loading it with pork and earmarks – without any serious political repercussions. Interestingly enough, the last time a farm bill was vetoed was nearly 10 years ago, when another late second-term president successfully vetoed a farm bill – a veto which Congress made no attempt to override. But the political climate is quite different from that of ten years ago, and I would suspect that this President does not have the political capital to successfully veto the farm bill.
See also: “Small Wind Remains in Farm Bill” :: Green Options (12/2007)